Reading guide for The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Interpretation of Murder

A Novel

by Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 450 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

About this Guide
The following list of questions about The Interpretation of Murder are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Interpretation of Murder.

About the Book

The Interpretation of Murder opens on a hot summer night in 1909 as Sigmund Freud disembarks in New York from a steamship. With Freud is his rival Carl Jung; waiting for him on the docks is a young physician named Stratham Younger, one of Freud’s most devoted American supporters. So begins this story of what will be the great genius’s first--and last--journey to America.

The morning after his arrival, a beautiful young woman is found dead in an apartment in one of the city’s grand new skyscrapers, The Balmoral. The next day brings a similar crime in a townhouse on Gramercy Park. Only this time the young heiress, Nora Acton, escapes with her life--but with no memory of the attack. Asked to consult on the case, Dr. Younger calls on Freud to guide him through the girl’s analysis. Their investigation, and the pursuit of the culprit, lead throughout New York, from the luxurious ballrooms of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, to the skyscrapers rising on seemingly ever street corner, to the bottom of the East River, where laborers digging through the silt to build the foundation of the Manhattan Bridge. 

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the use of the title, The Interpretation of Murder.
  2. The author’s portrayal of women is noteworthy: Is Nora still a victim when she is empowered by a sympathetic listener? What are Clara’s motives for the events in the novel?  How is Betty the maid, Susie Merrill, and Greta depicted? Do these characters reflect the turn-of-the-century society, or do they represent a more timeless portrayal of women?
  3. Dr. Stratham Younger, a thirty-three-year-old Harvard graduate who teaches at Clark University and who is the narrator of the book, insisted at age seventeen that all great art and scientific discoveries were made at or near the turn of a century (Michelangelo’s David - 1501; Cervantes’s Don Quixote - 1604; Beethoven’s symphonies - 1800; Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams - 1900, etc.) Discuss this phenomenon.
  4. Is Younger the right man for the job of trying to unravel the attempted murder of Nora?  Discuss psychoanalysis versus interrogation.
  5. Consider the role of class conflict in the book: Jung’s feelings of shame over his obvious wealth; Jung versus Freud; Acton versus Banwell; Chong versus Leon; Malley and Betty, etc.
  6. What role does psychological transference and sexual attraction play in the book?
  7. Younger asks, “How can human beings be loved if we carry within such repugnant desires?” Freud thinks that Nora wants to sodomize her father. Is this ultimately true?
  8. Discuss the author’s mix of fact and fiction. How has this device been used in previous New York novels, such as The Alienist, Ragtime, Dreamland: A Novel, Paradise Alley, etc.
  9. Younger is obsessed with solving the riddle of Hamlet in the book. Discuss his analysis of “to be or not to be” in terms of Freudian/Oedipal theories. What does Younger finally decide is the correct interpretation?
  10. Younger says, “Some people feel a need to bring about the very thing that will most torment them.” How does this describe the characters in the book?
  11. When he boards the ship back to Europe, Freud says that “America is a mistake . . . A gigantic mistake.” What does he mean?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Picador. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman in Moscow
    A Gentleman in Moscow
    by Amor Towles
    It is June 21, 1922, and 33-year-old Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is convicted of being a class ...
  • Book Jacket: I Contain Multitudes
    I Contain Multitudes
    by Ed Yong
    If a stranger were to accost you on the street and tell you that, from birth, you have never been ...
  • Book Jacket: Night of the Animals
    Night of the Animals
    by Bill Broun
    Debut novelist Bill Broun is a gentle, exquisite literary surgeon. His protagonist, 90-year-old ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain

An intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.